Last Veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk—Died in 1905!

In the month of May we celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor the men and women who died fighting our country’s wars—and, by extension, all veterans. During this week back in 1905 America was celebrating the remarkable story of a very special veteran—for on 13 May 1905, Hiram Silas Cronk died, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.

Hiram Cronk Featured in Duffy’s Whiskey Ads

On the day the old American solider turned 105, two weeks before his death, a whiskey company used Cronk’s longevity to help market its product. This newspaper advertisement was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2:

newspaper ad for Duffy's whiskey featuring Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper 29 April 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2

The Death & Funeral of Hiram Cronk

The now famous Hiram Cronk died as he had lived, quietly on his farm in New York, but his death and funeral were reported in newspapers all across the United States. The city of New York lavished a state funeral on the venerable veteran, with full military honors. Tens of thousands paid their respects by filing past Hiram Cronk’s body lying in its coffin in the rotunda of New York City Hall.

Cronk’s death was seen as the passing of an era, for his lifetime embraced almost the entirety of the country’s history. He was born in 1800 during the administration of the nation’s second president John Adams; fought in the War of 1812; lived the entire length of the 19th century as the U.S. became a world power and one of the richest nations on earth; and died just nine years before the outbreak of World War I—with all its modern weaponry including tanks, airplanes and poison gas.

The Life & Family of Hiram Cronk

Until almost the very end of his life, Cronk received little publicity or fame for his U.S. military service in the War of 1812. After the war he earned his living as a shoemaker, then later bought some land in New York and became a farmer. In 1825 he married Mary Thornton; the couple had seven children and were married 60 years, Mary dying in 1885. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. One of his descendants, Jane, lived to over 100 years of age as well, making the two “serial centenarians.”

Cronk Finally Becomes Famous for His Good Genes

It was not until 1900, when the start of a new century coincided with his 100th year, that newspapers began to pay Hiram Cronk much attention. Typical of the notices that ran that year is this pension notice, published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11:

notice about Hiram Cronk being 100 years old, Springfield Daily Republican newspaper, 4 May 1900

Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11

When Cronk was 101 the following article was published, emphasizing that he was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, and giving some interesting personal information—such as the fact that longevity ran in his family, and that he had used tobacco and strong liquor all his life!

This newspaper article was published by the Inter Ocean and reprinted by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4:

article about Hiram Cronk being the last survivor of the War of 1812, Daily Picayune newspaper, 3 June 1901

Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4

The news article goes on to report further on Cronk and his family’s genealogy:

“At the age of 101 years Mr. Cronk is still hale and hearty and, all things considered, remarkably active. He lives within a short distance of his birthplace. Except for his absence during the war, he has seldom left the vicinity.

“Cronk’s family is locally famous for longevity. Four brothers and a sister lived to be over 90 years old, and one to the age of 98. A family reunion was held on Hiram Cronk’s 100th birthday. It was attended by over 100 descendants and relatives.

“The veteran is a lifelong Democrat. He cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last for Grover Cleveland. When asked why he has not since voted the old gentleman remarks good-naturedly: ‘When I got down to Grover I calculated it was time to quit and call it a half day.’

“From a very early age Cronk has been a habitual user of tobacco. He both chews and smokes. Recently he has threatened to break the habit. He is afraid, he says, that the use of the weed may become a habit with him. He has drunk strong liquor throughout his life, but always in moderation.

“The veteran has every attention and bids fair to live for some time yet. He makes his home with his youngest daughter, a mere chit of a girl of 80.”

Three days after Cronk turned 104 this newspaper article was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6:

article about Hiram Cronk turning 104, Boston Journal newspaper, 2 May 1904

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6

Note that last line, a theme that reverberated when Cronk passed away the next year: “With his death will be broken a link that binds us to a glorious past.”

Publicity for Hiram Cronk—and the resulting fame—really increased in the winter of 1904-05, when the old man became seriously ill and death seemed imminent, as reported in this news article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), on the front page of its 24 December 1904 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk dying, Evening Press newspaper, 24 December 1904

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 24 December 1904, page 1

The article about the old soldier goes on to say:

“He had run the whole gamut of personal and business vicissitude, has found some consolation in the lean years and a greater joy in the last years, and was a cheery old optimist through all. Since last April the sluggishness has made itself felt and a natural sleep has, from day to day, taken up a greater number of the hours. Now he is sleeping his life away to the last sleep of all.”

Conk’s Funeral Is Arranged while He Is Still Living!

Alarmed at Cronk’s deteriorating condition, New York City’s Board of Aldermen took the unusual step of arranging a grand funeral for the aged veteran—even though he was still alive! This newspaper article was published by the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota) on the front page of its 21 December 1904 issue:

article about arranging funeral for Hiram Cronk, Duluth News Tribune newspaper, 21 December 1904

Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 21 December 1904, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“…in the state of New York and in view of his honorable part in many battles of the War of 1812, it would be fitting that the chief city of the Empire State lead in honoring him by a soldier’s burial and that his remains lie in state in the City Hall.

“Alderman McCall said that while he approved of the spirit of the resolution he thought it would be better to wait for the hero to die before providing for his funeral. The resolution finally was adopted by the following amendment:

“ ‘That in the event of the death of Mr. Cronk, the president of the Board of Alderman take cognizance of the fact and appoint a committee to provide for a public funeral and other honors of the dead hero.’”

As you might expect, this business of arranging a funeral for a man still living was much remarked upon in the nation’s press, as the following humorous notices show.

This notice was published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 6 January 1905, page 13:

“The New York Board of Aldermen are planning to give a public funeral to Hiram Cronk when he dies. He is the only survivor of the War of 1812 in New York. The news of such an honor may prove so exciting to the old man that it will kill him.”

This notice was published by the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 April 1905, page 6:

“Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, was 105 last Wednesday [correction: his birthday was April 29], but he refuses to die, although the New York aldermen have voted him a public funeral when he will accept. With such an inducement one would expect a rush for the tomb.”

This notice was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 April 1905, page 6:

“Some months ago the New York Board of Aldermen voted to give Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, a public funeral. In spite of this inducement to die, Mr. Cronk decided to remain among us a while longer, and celebrated his 105th birthday on Wednesday last [correction: his birthday was April 29]. He won’t lose the State funeral by declining to accept it at this time; he can have it whenever it will be convenient to him.”

There was a big celebration on April 29, 1905, when Cronk turned 105, as explained in this newspaper article published by the Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8:

article about celebrating Hiram Cronk's 105th birthday, Sunday world Herald newspaper, 30 April 1905

Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“Hiram Cronk, the only survivor of the War of 1812, was one hundred and five years old on April 29 and a patriotic celebration took place at his home at Ava, Oneida County, New York.

“Every society in the United States of the Sons and Daughters of the War of 1812 sent a delegation to Ava, and all patriots’ military bodies and American citizens sent him greetings, gifts or tokens to show that his services for the country were and are appreciated.

“Mr. Cronk was so weak during the winter that he was not expected to survive and elaborate funeral arrangements had been made, but he recovered thanks to Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey. By a special act of the New York City administration his remains, when he dies, will be interred in Mount Victory, a soldiers’ plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery.”

Hiram Cronk Dies at Age 105

Exactly two weeks after his 105th birthday, Hiram Cronk died. This newspaper article was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9:

article about the death of Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper, 13 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9

The news article goes on to say:

“The body of Mr. Cronk will lie in state in the City Hall of New York and will be buried in Mt. Victory, Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn, where more than half a hundred of his fellow soldiers in the War of 1812 have been laid at rest.”

The nation mourned the death of Hiram Cronk, recognizing it truly was the passing of an era, as expressed in this newspaper article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8:

article about Hiram Cronk's death being the end of an era, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, 15 May 1905

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“It calls to mind the brevity of our national existence. The [nineteenth] century-born Cronk was born during the Presidency of the elder Adams, when the total population was about that of Pennsylvania today, and when the cost of government was far less than the total appropriations just signed by Governor Pennypacker. He fought in the ranks against the troops of the same George III who ruled when the Revolution took place, a fact which so many intelligent people seem to have forgotten. He completed his career as a soldier before Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and at a time when this nation was still an experiment.

“Who could have imagined that this country would develop in wealth in the lifetime of a single man until it should become the richest on earth? That the population should grow to be the greatest of all non-Oriental nations, for we must place Russia essentially among the Eastern peoples? Who could have supposed that the life of one man would span that development in human activities which covered a period almost from the birth of steam as an active agent in human affairs?

“In view of these things what may not be the possibilities of the future?”

This comment was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 15 May 1905, page 6:

“The world of sentiment and patriotic affection seems poorer through the death of Hiram Cronk, the last pensioner of the War of 1812, and undoubtedly the final survivor. The one human link that bound us of today with that struggle for the defense of our rights on the sea has gone. Now let us carefully cherish the naval relics that are left to us.”

A grand parade escorted Hiram Cronk’s body to New York City Hall on May 17 so that it could lie in state for mourners to pay their respects, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10:

article about Hiram Cronk's body lying in state, Evening Press newspaper, 17 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 17.—The body of Hiram Cronk, who lived to be the last survivor of the War of 1812, was brought here today from Boonville, N.Y., and will be laid away in Cypress Hills Cemetery with full military honors. The funeral will be held tomorrow and in the meantime the body will lie in state in the City Hall. Accompanying the body were Mr. Cronk’s three surviving sons and one daughter. They were Philander Cronk, 81 years old; William, 72 years old; John, 66 years old; and the daughter, Mrs. Sarah Rowley, 71 years old.

“As the funeral cortege moved from the Grand Central Station to the City Hall it afforded an imposing and unusual spectacle. Led by a police escort of mounted officers, a detachment from the United States regular Army, the Society of 1812 and the Old Guard in uniform, came the hearse bearing the old warrior’s body. Around it, in hollow square formation, marched the members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. Then followed the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union, and carriages with members of the Cronk family. Carriages with Mayor McClellan and members of the city government brought up the rear.”

Details of Hiram Cronk’s body lying in state, as well as his funeral the following day on May 18, were reported in this newspaper article published by the Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) on the front page of its 18 May 1905 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Pawtucket Times newspaper, 18 May 1905

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 May 1905, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 18.—The body of Hiram Cronk, the last veteran of the War of 1812 to pass away, was buried today in Cypress Hills Cemetery with impressive military honors. Nearly threescore other soldiers who fought in the war of almost a century ago had lain for many years in the cemetery where their oldest comrade was placed today.

“Since yesterday, when it was brought from Boonville, the body has been in the City Hall. All day yesterday, last evening and this forenoon there was a constant stream of men, women and children moving past the flower and bunting-covered casket in the city building—the first which had rested there since the body of Gen. Grant lay in state. One hundred and fifty policemen were required to keep the crowd moving and to keep clear the plaza in front of the building.

“From the City Hall to the cemetery the body was escorted by a detail of mounted police, the Fourteenth Regiment, and a troop from the Second Brigade, National Guard of New York; delegations from U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R., and carriages containing relatives of the dead soldier and a committee from the Board of Aldermen representing the city. All along the route over which the funeral cortege passed the streets were lined with people. At the cemetery Marcus B. Taylor, chaplain of the Veteran Corps, conducted the burial service according to the Grand Army ritual.”

With a volley of military gunfire and the playing of taps, Hiram Cronk was finally laid to rest, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Belleville News Democrat newspaper, 19 May 1905

Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2

The news article goes on to say:

“More than 50,000 New Yorkers, with bared heads, filed past the flower-covered bier in which the dead soldier lay in the City Hall. The expenses of the unusual, but befitting honors to him, are borne by the city.

“The catafalque rested in the rotunda of the City Hall, draped with flags and flowers, while the building was draped in black. It was the first time since the death of Gen. Grant that a body has laid in state in the City Hall.

“After the body had been lowered into the grave, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, a squad of soldiers fired a volley over the grave and a bugler sounded taps. Hiram Cronk was with the army of the dead.”

Newspaper Genealogy Research Discoveries: 7 Brothers Meet at Last

Family reunions are special occasions, but the Jones family reunion in the fall of 1881 in Lewiston, Maine, was especially noteworthy: although they ranged in age from 47 to 72 years old, this reunion was the first time all seven Jones brothers were together in one place at the same time!

This happened because the oldest brother (Ebenezer, born in 1809) married Rebecca Adams in 1831 and settled in Newport, Vermont, while the rest of the family relocated to Lewiston, Maine, before the youngest brother (Luther) was born in 1833.

The family had tried several times over 40 years to have a complete family reunion, but they led busy lives and always one brother or another missed each reunion. Finally, the stars must have fallen into proper alignment, everything clicked into place, and the joyous family occasion happened at last.

Can you imagine the smiles on all the faces? At that remarkable—and long awaited—reunion of all the living members of the family, the seven brothers sat at the table in the order of their ages. To make the reunion complete, the brothers’ one remaining sister, Mrs. Albert Frost, joined them.

This heartwarming family reunion story illustrates two important points about using newspapers to research your genealogy. First of all: you never know what you will find once you start looking through a newspaper archive. Even if the Jones family is not related to you, little discoveries like this story—and newspapers are full of them—add the human touch to your genealogy pursuit, and make your research fun and interesting.

For the second point, look closely at the family reunion newspaper article below: notice that it was originally printed in the Lewiston Journal (Maine), but was reprinted in the Huntsville Gazette—an Alabama paper! This special family reunion story was so popular it was also reprinted by the Sun (Maryland) and Omaha Herald (Nebraska) newspapers as well. Perhaps the newspaper editors thought this amazing story would interest their readers, or maybe someone in those areas was related to the Jones family, and editors are always looking for news items that have connections to their readers.

The lesson here is to expand the geographic scope of your newspaper search if your initial search didn’t turn up enough information. The newspaper archive you’re looking in may not have the issue of the Lewiston Journal this article first appeared in, but it might have the Huntsville Gazette issue where the article was reprinted. It is a good thing that GenealogyBank has brought together the largest collection of U.S. newspapers available online—5,700 of them from all 50 states—with a powerful search engine, making it easy to search through this large newspaper archive to research your genealogy.

What will you discover?

This family reunion story, was printed by the Huntsville Gazette (Alabama), 5 November 1881, page 4.

Remembering Sgt. Baller

There is a nice story in today’s Wall Street Journal: A Final Farewell to Arms: Remains of vets left at funeral homes to be buried.

It is about a group of volunteer veterans that are giving the final salute to veterans – whose cremains have been left and long forgotten at funeral homes across America.
Among those vets to be buried on Memorial Day are Sgt. First Class Carl J. Baller who died in 1947.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Chicago, IL Key Genealogy Resources Online – Handy Guide

Chicago Genealogy Resources.
Bookmark and save this page – so you may easily refer to it often.
Your handy guide to the sources you will actually use to build your family tree.

Birth Certificates – 1878-1922
FamilySearch Pilot
Birth Registers – 1871-1915
FamilySearch Pilot

1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
1850 – Mortality, 1850 – Slave Schedule
FamilySearch Pilot

City Directory
1844; 1855; 1856; 1863-1864

Deaths – pre 1916. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives
Deaths 1916-1950. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Deaths 1937-Present. SSDI

Land Records – Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales
Illinois State Archives

Marriage Records – 1871-1920. Chicago, IL
FamilySearch Pilot
Marriage Records – 1763-1900. Illnois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Military – WWII Draft Registration Cards
FamilySearch Pilot

Illinois State Archives- Military Database Projects
Illinois Veterans’ History Project
Illinois War of 1812 Veterans
Illinois Winnebago War Veterans
Illinois Black Hawk War Veterans
Illinois Mexican War Veterans
Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls
Illinois Civil War Veterans Serving in the U.S. Navy
Illinois Civil War Veterans of Missouri Units
Illinois Spanish–American War Veterans
Database of the 1929 Illinois Roll of Honor
Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Residents

Newspapers: 1854 – Today
Bags & Baggage. (Chicago, IL) 1937-1943
Bulletin. (Chicago, IL) 1968-1969
Central South Sider. (Chicago, IL) 1929
Chicago Courier. (Chicago, IL) 1974-1975
Chicago Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1890-1891
Chicago Metro News. (Chicago, IL) 1973-1990
Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1986-Current
Chicago Times. (Chicago, IL) 1854-1888
Chicago Tribune. (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1985-Current
Chicago World. (Chicago, IL) 1925-1935
Daily Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Daily Southtown (Chicago, IL) 7/31/2004-11/17/2007
Illinois Sentinel. (Chicago, IL) 1937
Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Latin Times. (Chicago, IL) 1868-1975
Metropolitan Post. (Chicago, IL) 1938-1939
Noticia Mundial. (Chicago, IL) 1927-1928
Olivet Baptist Church Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1936
Pomeroy’s Democrat. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1879
Skyline (Chicago, IL) 12/8/2005-12/6/2007
Sol de Chicago. (Chicago, IL) 1960
SouthtownStar (Chicago, IL) 11/18/2007-Current
Sunday Times. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1876
Vida Latina. (Chicago, IL) 1952-1963
Vorbote. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1875

Slave Records
Database of Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records
Illinois State Archives

Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research

Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research
By Jeffery Hartley

(This article appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Prologue. It has been excerpted and reprinted here with the permission of the author.

The Historical Documents section in GenealogyBank includes over 243,000 reports from the US Serial Set and the American State Papers).

Click here to search the American State Papers and US Congressional Serial Set in

Genealogists use whatever sources are available to them in pursuit of their family history: diaries, family Bibles, census records, passenger arrival records, and other federal records. One set of materials that is often overlooked, however, is the Congressional Serial Set.

This large multivolume resource contains various congressional reports and documents from the beginning of the federal government, and its coverage is wide and varied. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, students, soldiers and sailors, pensioners, landowners, and inventors are all represented in some fashion. While a beginning genealogist would not use the Serial Set to begin a family history, it nevertheless can serve as a valuable tool and resource for someone helping to flesh out an ancestors life, especially where it coincided with the interests of the U.S. federal government.

Since its inception, the U.S. government has gathered information, held hearings, compiled reports, and published those findings in literally millions of pages, the majority of which have been published by the Government Printing Office (GPO).

These publications include annual reports of the various executive branch agencies, congressional hearings and documents, registers of employees, and telephone directories. Their topics cover a wide range, from the Ku Klux Klan to child labor practices to immigration to western exploration.

In 1817, the Serial Set was begun with the intent of being the official, collective, definitive publication documenting the activities of the federal government. Following the destruction of the Capitol in 1814 by the British, Congress became interested in publishing their records to make them more accessible and less vulnerable to loss.

In the early Federal period, printing of congressional documents had been haphazard, and the Serial Set was an effort designed to rectify that situation. Although initially there were no regulations concerning what should be included, several laws and regulations were promulgated over the years. The contents, therefore, vary depending on the year in question.

In 1831, 14 years after the Serial Set was begun, the printers Gales & Seaton proposed that a compilation of the documents from the first Congresses be printed. The secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House were to direct the selection of those documents, 6,278 of which were published in 38 volumes between 1832 and 1861. This collection was known as the American State Papers.

Because it was a retrospective effort, these 38 volumes were arranged chronologically within 10 subject areas: Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Finance, Commerce & Navigation, Military Affairs, Naval Affairs, Post Office, Public Lands, Claims, and Miscellaneous.

Although not technically a part of the Serial Set, the volumes were certainly related, and therefore the volumes were designated with a leading zero so that these volumes would be shelved properly, i.e. before the volumes of the Serial Set. (1)

The Congressional Serial Set itself includes six distinct series: House and Senate journals (until 1953), House and Senate reports, House and Senate documents, Senate treaty documents, Senate executive reports, and miscellaneous reports. The journals provide information about the daily activities of each chamber. The House and Senate reports relate to public and private legislation under consideration during each session.

Documents generally relate to other investigations or subjects that have come to the attention of Congress. Nominations for office and military promotion appear in the Senate Executive Reports. Miscellaneous reports are just that­widely varied in subject matter and content. With the possible exception of the treaty documents, any of these can have some relevance for genealogists.

The documents and reports in the Serial Set are numbered sequentially within each Congress, no matter what their subject or origin. The documents were then collected into volumes, which were then given a sequential number within the Serial Set. The set currently stands at over 15,000 volumes, accounting for more than 325,000 individual documents and 11 million pages.

The Serial Set amounts to an incredible amount of documentation for the 19th century. Agency annual reports, reports on surveys and military expeditions, statistics and other investigations all appear and thoroughly document the activities of the federal government.

In 1907, however, the Public Printing and Binding Act provided guidelines for what should be included, resulting in many of these types of reports no longer being included as they were also issued separately by the individual agencies. The number of copies was also trimmed. With that stroke, the value of the Serial Set was lessened, but it nevertheless stands as a valuable genealogical resource for the 19th century.

So what is available for genealogists? The following examples are just some of the types of reports and information that are available.

Land Records
The Serial Set contains much information concerning land claims. These claims relate to bounty for service to the government as well as to contested lands once under the jurisdiction of another nation.

In House Report 78 (21-2), there is a report entitled “Archibald Jackson.” This report, from the House Committee on Private Land Claims, in 1831, relates to Jackson’s claim for the land due to James Gammons. Gammons, a soldier in the 11th U.S. Infantry, died on February 19, 1813, “in service of the United States.” The act under which he enlisted provided for an extra three month’s pay and 160 acres of land to those who died while in service to the United States. However, Gammons was a slave, owned by Archibald Jackson, who apparently never overtly consented to the enlistment but allowed it to continue. That Gammons was eligible for the extra pay and bounty land was not in dispute, but the recipient of that bounty was. Jackson had already collected the back pay in 1823 and was petitioning for the land as well. The report provides a decision in favor of Jackson, as he was the legal representative of Gammons, and as such entitled to all of his property. (2)

Land as bounty was one issue, and another was claims for newly annexed land as the country spread west. In 1838, the House of Representatives published a report related to Senate Bill 89 concerning the lands acquired through the treaty with Spain in 1819 that ceded East and West Florida to the United States. Claims to land between the Mississippi and the Perdido Rivers, however, were not a part of that treaty and had been unresolved since the Louisiana Purchase, which had taken the Perdido River as one of its limits. The report provides a background on the claims as well as lists of the claimants, the names of original claimants, the date and nature of the claim, and the amount of the land involved. (3)

Other land claims are represented as well. In 1820, the Senate ordered a report to be printed from the General Land Office containing reports of the land commissioners at Jackson Court House. These lands are located in Louisiana and include information that would help a genealogist locate their ancestor in this area. Included in this report is a table entitled “A List of Actual Settlers, in the District East of Pearl River, in Louisiana, prior to the 3d March, 1819, who have no claims derived from either the French, British, or Spanish, Governments.” The information is varied, but a typical entry reads: No. 14, present claimant George B. Dameson, original claimant Mde. Neait Pacquet, originally settled 1779, located above White’s Point, Pascag. River, for about 6 years. (4)

Annual Reports
Among the reports in the Serial Set for the 19th century are the annual reports to Congress from the various executive branch agencies. Congress had funded the activities of these organizations and required that each provide a report concerning their annual activities. Many of these are printed in the Serial Set, often twice: the same content with both a House and a Senate document number. Annual reports in the 19th century were very different from the public relations pieces that they tend to be today.

Besides providing information about the organization and its activities, many included research reports and other (almost academic) papers. In the annual reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, for instance, one can find dictionaries of Native American languages, reports on artifacts, and in one case, even a genealogy for the descendants of a chief. (5)

These reports can often serendipitously include information of interest to the family historian. For instance, the annual report of the solicitor of the Treasury would not necessarily be a place to expect to find family information. The 1844 report, however, does have some information that could be useful. For instance, pages 36 and 37 of this report contains a “tabular list of suits now pending in the courts of the United States, in which the government is a part and interested.”

Many on the opposite side of the case were individuals. An example is the case of Roswell Lee, late a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, against whom there has been a judgment for over $5,000 in 1838. Lee was sued in a court in Massachusetts and in 1844 still owed over $4,000. In a letter dated May 5, 1840, the district attorney informed the office (6)
that Mr. Lee is not now a resident of the district of Massachusetts, and that whether he ever returns is quite uncertain; that nothing, however, will be lost by his absence, as the United States have now a judgment against him, which probably will forever remain unsatisfied.

Another set of annual reports that appear in the Serial Set are those for the Patent Office. The annual reports of the commissioner of patents often include an index to the patents that were granted that year, arranged by subject and containing the names of the invention and the patentee and the patent number. The report included a further description of the patent, and often a diagram of it as well. Each year’s report also included an index by patentee.

Unfortunately, the numbers of patents granted in later years, as well as their complexity, led to more limited information being included in later reports. The 1910 report, for instance, simply contains an alphabetical list of inventions, with the entries listing the patentee, number, date, and where additional information can be found in the Official Patent Office Gazette. (7)

The Civil War gave rise to a number of medical enhancements and innovations in battlefield medicine, and the annual report for 1865, published in 1867, contains a reminder of that in the patent awarded to G. B. Jewett, of Salem, Massachusetts, for “Legs, artificial.” Patent 51,593 was granted December 19, 1865, and the description of the patent on page 990 provides information on the several improvements that Jewett had developed. The patent diagram on page 760 illustrated the text. (8)

This annual report relates to a report from May 1866, also published in the Serial Set that same session of Congress, entitled “Artificial Limbs Furnished to Soldiers.” This report, dated May 1866, came from the secretary of war in response to a congressional inquiry concerning artificial limbs furnished to soldiers at the government’s expense. Within its 128 pages are a short list of the manufacturers of these limbs, including several owned by members of the Jewett family in Salem, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., as well as an alphabetical list of soldiers, detailing their rank, regiment and state, residence, limb, cost, date, and manufacturer. Constantine Elsner, a private in B Company of the 20th Massachusetts living in Boston, received a leg made by G. B. Jewett at a cost of $75 on April 8, 1865. 9 This may have been an older version of the one that Jewett would have patented later in the year, or it may have been an early model of that one. Either way, a researcher would have some idea not only of what Elsner’s military career was like, but also some sense of what elements of life for him would be like after the war.

Congress also was interested in the activities of organizations that were granted congressional charters. Many of the charters included the requirement that an annual report be supplied to Congress, and these were then ordered to be printed in the Serial Set.

One such organization is the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). As one would expect, the DAR annual reports contain a great deal of genealogical and family history information. The 18th annual report is no exception. Among other things, it includes, in appendix A, a list of the graves of almost 3,000 Revolutionary War soldiers. The list includes not just a name and location, but other narrative information as well:
Abston, John. Born Jan. 2, 1757; died 1856. Son of Joshua Abston, captain of Virginia militia; served two years in War of the American Revolution. Enlisted from Pittsylvania County, Va.; was in Capt. John Ellis’ company under Col. Washington. The evening before the battle of Kings Mountain, Col. Washington, who was in command of the starving Americans at this point, sent soldiers out to forage for food. At a late hour a steer was driven into camp, killed, and made into a stew. The almost famished soldiers ate the stew, without bread, and slept the sleep of the just. Much strengthened by their repast and rest, the next morning they made the gallant charge that won the battle of Kings Mountain, one of the decisive battles of the American Revolution. Washington found one of the steer’s horns and gave it to Abston, a personal friend, who carried it as a powder horn the rest of the war. (10)

Another organization whose annual reports appear is the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which later became Gallaudet University. These reports, found in the annual reports of the secretary of the interior, contain much of what one would expect: lists of faculty and students, enrollment statistics, and other narrative. While that information can help to provide information about one’s ancestor’s time there, there are other parts of the narrative that include information one would not expect to find.

For instance, the 10th annual report for 1867 has a section entitled “The Health of the Institution.” It concerns not the fiscal viability of the institution but rather the occurrences of illness and other calamities. One student from Maryland, John A. Unglebower, was seized with gastric fever and died: “He was a boy of exemplary character, whose early death is mourned by all who knew him.” Two other students drowned that year, and the circumstances of their deaths recounted, with the hope that “they were not unprepared to meet the sudden and unexpected summons.” (11) Both the faculty and the student body contributed their memorials to these two students in the report.

Other organizations represented in the Serial Set are the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Veterans of World War I of the United States, proceedings of the National Encampment, United Spanish War Veterans, the American Historical Association, and the National Convention of Disabled American Veterans.

Lists of Pensioners
The history of pensions provided by the federal government is beyond the scope of this article. However, the Serial Set is a source of information about who was on the rolls at various times. For instance, an 1818 letter from the secretary of war was published containing a list of the persons who had been added to the pension list since May 28, 1813. The list provides information on the likes of Susanna Coyle, certificate of pension no. 9, heiress of deceased soldier William Coyle, alias Coil, a private who received pay of four dollars per month. (12)

Sundry lists of pensions appeared in 1850, related to the regulation of Navy, privateer, and Navy hospital funds. The report included four lists: those placed in the invalid list who were injured while in the line of duty; those drawing pensions from wounds received while serving on private armed vessels; widows drawing pensions from their husbands who were engineers, firemen, and coal-heavers; and orphan children of officers, seamen, and marines pensioned under the act of August 11, 1848. (13)

One of the most widely consulted lists is that for 1883, “List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883” (Senate Executive Document 84 [47-2]). This five-volume title, arranged by state and then county of residence, provides a list of each pensioner’s name, his post office, the monthly amount received, the date of the original allowance, the reason for the pension, and the certificate number.

An example is the case of Eli G. Biddle, who served in the 54th Massachusetts. Biddle can be found on page 439 of volume 5 of the “List,” and a researcher can learn several things without even having seen his pension file: his middle name is George, he was living in Boston in 1883, and he was receiving four dollars each month after having suffered a gunshot wound in the right shoulder. His pension certificate number is also provided 99,053­ and with that one could easily order the appropriate records from the National Archives.

The Serial Set serves as a source of military registers and other lists of government personnel as well. Both Army and Navy registers appear after 1896. The Army registers for 1848–1860 and the Navy registers for 1848–1863 are transcripts of the lists that appeared the preceding January and include pay and allowances, with corrections to that earlier edition for deaths and resignations.

The Official Register, or “Blue Book,” a biannual register of the employees of the federal government, appears for 10 years, from 1883 to 1893. If one’s ancestors were employees at this time, their current location and position, place from which they were appointed, date of appointment, and annual compensation can be gleaned from this source.

The Serial Set often provides unexpected finds, and the area of registers is no exception. There is a great deal of material on the Civil War, from the 130 volumes of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion to other investigations and the aforementioned registers and lists of pensions. There are not, however, large amounts of compiled unit histories.

One exception, however, is the report from the adjutant general of Arkansas. Shortly after the Civil War, the adjutant general offices of the various Union states prepared reports detailing the activities of the men from their states. The same was done in Arkansas, but the state legislature there, “under disloyal control,” declined to publish the report. Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, brought it to the committee in 1867, and it was ordered to be printed in the Serial Set so that the loyal activities of these 10,000 men would be recognized. (14) The report includes brief histories of each unit as well as a roster of the unit and rank, enlistment date, and other notes on each soldier.

Accessing Information in the Serial Set
The indexing for the Serial Set has long been troublesome to researchers. Various attempts have been made to provide subject access, with varying degrees of success. Many of the indexes in the volumes themselves are primarily title indexes to the reports from that Congress and session. The Checklist of United States Public Documents, 1789–1909, does provide information about what reports listed therein do appear in the Serial Set, but the researcher has to know the name of the issuing agency in order to access that information. The Document Index provides some subject indexing by Congress, and other efforts such as those by John Ames and Benjamin Poore can also be used, but none index the tables and contents of many of the reports that have been discussed in this article. (15)

The best comprehensive print index is the Congressional Information Service’s (CIS) U.S. Serial Set Index, produced in conjunction with their microfilming of the volumes through 1969 beginning in the mid-1970s. In this index, a two-volume subject index covers groups of Congresses, with a third volume providing an index to individual names for relief actions, as well as a complete numerical list in each report/document category. The index, however, does not index the contents of the documents. For instance, although the title given for the Archibald Jackson land claim includes James Gammons’s name, the latter does not appear in the index to private relief actions. In addition, users must often be creative in the terms applied in order to be sure that they have exhausted all possibilities. In the mid-1990s CIS released these indexes on CD-ROM, which makes them somewhat easier to use, although the contents are essentially the same.

The indexing problems have been rectified by the digitization of the Serial Set. At least two private companies, LexisNexis and Readex, have digitized it and made it full-text searchable.

[The Serial Set and American State Papers are available in GenealogyBank. Click here to search them online]

This article can only hint at some of the genealogical possibilities that can be found in the Congressional Serial Set. It has not touched on the land survey, railroad, western exploration, or lighthouse keeper’s reports or many of the private relief petitions and claims. Nonetheless, the reports and documents in the Serial Set provide a tremendous and varied amount of information for researchers interested in family history.

Jeffery Hartley is chief librarian for the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC). A graduate of Dickinson College and the University of Maryland’s College of Library and Information Services, he joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 1990.

1 For a more complete description of the American State Papers, and their genealogical relevance, see Chris Naylor, “Those Elusive Early Americans: Public Lands and Claims in the American State Papers, 1789–1837,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration 37 (Summer 2005): 54–61.
2 H. Rept. 78 (21-2), 1831, “Archibald Jackson” (Serial 210).
3 H. Rept. 818 (25-2), 1838, “Land Claims between Perdido and Mississippi” Serial 335.
4 S. Doc. 3 (16-2), 1820, “Reports of the Land Commissioners at Jackson Court House” (Serial 42).
5 H. Misc. Doc. 32 (48-2), 1882, “3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology” (Serial 2317).
6 H. Doc. 35 (28-1), 1844, “Annual Report of Solicitor of the Treasury” (Serial 441), p. 37. 7 H. Doc. 1348 (61-3), 1911, “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1910″ (Serial 6020).
8 H. Exec. Doc. 62 (39-1), 1867, “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1865″ (Serial 1257-1259).
9 H. Exec. Doc. 108 (39-1), 1866, “Artificial Limbs Furnished to Soldiers” (Serial 1263).
10 S. Doc. 392 (64-1), 1916, “Eighteenth Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, October 11, 1914, to October 11, 1915″ (Serial 6924), p.155. 11 H. Exec. Doc. 1 (40-2), “Tenth Annual Report of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb” (Serial 1326), pp. 429–430.
12 H. Doc. 35 (15-1), 1818 (Serial 6), p. 17.
13 See H. Ex. Doc. 10 (31-2), 1850, “Sundry Lists of Pensioners” (Serial 597).
14 See S. Misc. Doc 53 (39-2), 1867, “Report of the Adjutant General for the State of Arkansas, for the Period of the Late Rebellion, and to November 1, 1866″ (Serial 1278).
15 A good discussion of how some of these indexes work can be found in Mary Lardgaard, “Beginner’s Guide to Indexes to the Nineteenth Century U.S. Serial Set,” Government Publications Review 2 (1975): 303–311.

Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY – Honors Civil War Vets

Newspapers are producing more than newsprint – they are adding video news clips.
Here is an example from the New York Times – “Green-Wood Remembers Civil War Dead”

Click here and watch in depth report about Green-Wood Cemetery’s effort to document the graves of Civil War veterans.

It’s must viewing!

What do you have for my town?

Sometimes genealogists look at GenealogyBank‘s 3,700+ newspapers and only focus on newspapers published in their home town.

Beginning researchers often concentrate on their local newspaper or other newspapers published in their state and don’t think they need the rest of the content in GenealogyBank.

When I first began researching 43 years ago – I found an obituary about Edward Kemp (1863-1926) published in the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Register (NEHGS Memoirs. January 1928. pp. 103-104).

The obituary said that he was born in County Cavan, Ireland. That would have been crucial information for my Kemp research at that time. But the article also said that he was born in New York City so I erroneously concluded this was not my relative. I thought our family was “only” from Stamford, Connecticut.

It would be years later that I would again find Edward’s obituary in the Register. The second time I recognized him immediately as my cousin. By then I knew that the family was from County Cavan – but I stared at that information and wondered – how was it I didn’t find this earlier? And, then I recalled that I had tossed it aside because he was from New York City.

Tip: Families move to other parts of the country. Use GenealogyBank to find your family obituaries; articles, and documents – no matter where in the country these items were published. Don’t assume you only want your hometown newspaper.

Let me give you an example – framed on the basic question researchers often ask – What do you have on Stamford, CT?

The question should be more precise. What do you have on Grace Stewart – who was born and married in Stamford, CT?

What was known?
Her name: Grace Toms
Approximate year/place of birth: born about 1896 in Stamford, CT
Spouse: She married “Charles Stewart”
Other: The rest of the “Toms” family lived/died in the Stamford area.

Initial searches found nothing on them.
Charles Stewart and Grace Stewart are common names.

A search of GenealogyBank for Grace Stewart yielded 1,238 results – that is just too many to sort through to find her.

I narrowed the search to just the more recent America’s Obituaries section to see if I could locate her obituary notice.

That resulted in 143 hits – I could sift through those – but I first limited the search again by state – for just obituaries published in Connecticut newspapers. This time I got zero hits.

So I turned to search for her husband: Charles Stewart.

A search for him in the America’s Obituaries section for all newspapers produced 632 hits. When I limited the search to just CT newspapers I found one hit, but it was not him

I then repeated the America’s Obituaries section search for Grace Stewart but this time I added her middle name “Toms” to the extra search terms in “Include keywords” box.


One more try. I repeated the America’s Obituaries section search for Grace Stewart but this time I added “Stamford” to the extra search terms “Include keywords” box.


Grace Stewart
Washington Post, The (DC) – February 4, 1992
Grace M. Stewart, 93, an associate judge of the Municipal Court in Washington in 1952 and 1953, died of pneumonia Feb. 1 at the Collingswood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rockville, where she was a patient for five years. She was a Washington resident off and on for 74 years.

Mrs. Stewart was appointed to the court after serving as executive assistant in the attorney general’s office. She worked for the Justice Department for 24 years.
After she left Municipal Court, she was on the staff of the Senate District Committee and later became administrative director of the Washington office of Executive Manpower Corp, a recruitment firm. She retired in 1973.

A native of Stamford, Conn., Mrs. Stewart attended American University and its law school. She was a typist with the Veterans Administration before she became a lawyer at Justice.

She belonged to the Federal and Women’s Bar associations and Phi Delta Delta legal fraternity.

Her husband, Charles Stewart, died in 1920. Survivors include two daughters, Barbara S. Eskey of Rockville and Patricia S. de Hoffman of La Jolla, Calif.; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Copyright (c) 1992 The Washington Post

Tip: Don’t only concentrate on your home town newspaper. You can find articles about your family published in out of state newspapers – in this case the Washington Post.

Tip: Be sure to be creative in adding/removing search terms to fine tune your search.
Tip: Search GenealogyBank now.
What will you find?